On September 8th, the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) hosted a webinar entitled “The American Pandemic Preparedness Plan: One Year of Progress & The Path Forward.” The event was part of a broader engagement to introduce the 2022 Annual Report on the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan, which was released by the White House on September 1st.
Bloomberg’s Janet Wu moderated a lively and deep discussion on the annual report with two expert panelists who were key contributors to the report’s development: Dr. Matthew Hepburn and Dr. Carly S. Cox. Dr. Matthew Hepburn serves as the Senior Advisor on Pandemic Preparedness to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dr. Carly S. Cox is a Research Staff Member at Institute for Defense Analyses’ Science and Technology Policy Institute and a CSR Fellow for Ending Bioweapons. The panelists discussed the whole-of-government response needed to prepare for the next pandemic, while shining light on the new science communication standards and push towards public-private partnerships that have already been set in motion.
Wu opened the conversation by asking the panelists to share their thoughts on what lessons the U.S. government learned from COVID, as well as how those lessons can be applied to prevent future outbreaks from reaching the same magnitude. Dr. Hepburn focused on the need for a diverse public health workforce with skill sets that align with modern capabilities and considerations. These include learning from the public health messaging lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to modernize communication approaches, having a strong foundation in data analytics, and ensuring that future public health infrastructure is led by individuals who exhibit empathy. Dr. Cox, in agreement with Dr. Hepburn, added that community engagement efforts and inspiration from the younger generation of healthcare workers and public health officials should be harnessed to continue bettering the U.S. response to future outbreaks.
Another key theme that emerged was on how the U.S. government and the private sector can collaborate towards more robust pandemic preparedness. Both panelists discussed public-private partnership programs, like the National Institute of Health’s RADx Initiative, and funding programs that accelerate innovation, like the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s DRIVe program, as something to be cultivated. Further, Dr. Hepburn noted that future U.S. strategy should carefully consider investing taxpayer dollars in areas that require government intervention for future biological threats, and that bridge the gap between public and private sectors, such as medical countermeasure development and diagnostic platforms.
Finally, the panelists touched on the need for greater clarity and transparency from the U.S. government as it communicates to the public on scientific advancements and innovations during future biological events. Dr. Hepburn highlighted recent publications and reports from the ongoing monkeypox outbreak as actions that are meant to provide the public with an analysis of what is currently known, and what is still to be determined. In terms of enhancing transparency and accessibility, Dr. Cox noted that the White House had recently provided guidance to make all federally-funded research available to the public, both by making sure scientific literature is published in open source formats, and no longer restricted behind paywalls.
In closing, the webinar highlighted how the American Pandemic Prevention Plan is an ongoing effort across multiple agencies and departments within the U.S. government with many lines of activities. The foundations of public-private partnerships, accelerating innovation, and enabling a rapid response already exist and will be further strengthened as this plan continues.
We’d like to thank our event moderator and our panelists for their time and energy in creating such a lively, timely, and fantastic discussion for this webinar. CSR encourages the public to read the report linked here, and to watch a recording of the webinar on the CSR YouTube channel here.